Here we are in the middle of the holiday season. We see lots of things expanding from waistlines to credit card debt! At the same time other things are running out: our patience and time. Believe it or not I have one simple cure to all of these problems of increasing and decreasing.

It is menu planning. I know that you probably don't believe that this one thing can help you with your weight, debt, patience and time, but it can.

During this time of year we are rushing around trying to get everything accomplished on top of everything else we have to do. We push ourselves till we are about to drop and then all of a sudden you hear that question that is the dread of every woman's heart, "What's for dinner?"

So what do we usually do? We head for the phone or the nearest drive-through. All because we don't think we have time. What does that do to our disposable income? It builds up our credit card debt and those jeans just don't fit any more. You have placed that hard-earned money on your backside, and it's not in your wallet either.

With our morning routines, our before-bed routines and a basic weekly plan we can know what's for dinner because we have made out our menus, written up a grocery list, we have gone to the grocery store and have all the things we need in the house to prepare the meals. All it takes is getting out a piece of paper right here and now. What is stopping you? I don't want to hear that you don't have time! This is just whining. This one little thing is going to help reduce the stress in your life.

Now, grab that paper and no more whining. Get down your calendar because you will be writing your menus on it. Now think of your family's favorite things to eat. Put them on your calendar. My way of thinking about this is to use what we have in the freezer to save even more money. Check out what is frozen and in your pantry to build these menus. This is easy.

Now write down the side dishes to go with the main course. Include a salad as one of them. Put lettuce and spinach on your list and other fresh veggies to make your salad. Most of what you will be buying at the grocery store will be the fresh stuff and staples anyway. We all know what this is (the stuff we always buy even if we don't have a list): toilet paper, washing powder, milk, bread, peanut butter. You know your family's favorites and the item we don't like to run out of.

Now, here is the secret to saving time in the kitchen. When you cut up stuff for one meal, do enough for two meals and put together two casseroles or two meat loaves. It is just as easy to make two as one; then put the other one in the freezer for those nights you have a busy schedule.

The key to making this all happen is using your calendar to put the extra meal on the same day next month. If you do this all during the month of November you will have all your meals ready for December. Then you will really be cruising through the holidays.

As part of your before-bed routine check your calendar for "What is for Dinner tomorrow?" and pull it out of the freezer. When you get up in the morning, you can utilize your crock pot so when you walk in the door you are greeted with a home cooked meal! Talk about fast food! This is it and it is so good for you.

For more help with menu planning or about how to get some freezer meals put away for the holidays, go to Leanne's Web site: She has put together a special package for us to Cruise Through the holidays.

For more help getting rid of your CHAOS; check out: or "Sink Reflections" published by Bantam and "Body Clutter" published by Fireside. Copyright 2007 Marla Cilley. Used by permission in this publication.